Economic Inequality in the United States

One widely used measure of economic inequality in the United States is the distribution of annual household income. The following pie charts show how annual income was distributed by household quintiles for 1980, 1990, and 2000. Each slice of the pie represents a quintile or fifth of U.S. households, which are ranked from highest to lowest in annual earnings. The size of the slice indicates the percentage of total income that was earned by each quintile of households.

For instance, in 1980, the highest ranking quintile or fifth of households earned 43.7 percent of the total annual income in the United States. By the year 2000, the income earned by this highest quintile had increased to nearly half (49.7 percent) of total household income. While the proportion of income earned by the highest quintile has been steadily growing in recent decades, the shares of annual income earned by other U.S. households have been shrinking.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, P60-213 (2001) Next Page